Over the weekend, Ruby's Bar and Grill closed for the season. But on Monday, the owners learned that after more than 70 years on the Coney Island boardwalk, their lease would not be renewed, along with eight other businesses that don't conform to Zamperla/CAI's vague vision of a generic, year-round restaurant sports bar megacomplex. Because who can resist Coney Island in February?! There's been a bitter outcry over the evictions, and on Saturday starting at 12:30 p.m. Ruby's will reopen for one day for a protest to "tell Zamperla, Markowitz, Recchia, Bloomberg and CIDC we won't go quietly." Meanwhile, the blog Amusing the Zillion thinks it's found hope.
The land is owned by the city—the Bloomberg administration paid $95.7 million to buy it from the previous bad guy Joe Sitt. It's leased to Zamerpla/CAI, which this summer turned the former Astroland site into Luna Park. That company is the one deciding which merchants get to stay alive, but Amusing the Zillion notices that the NYCEDC’s Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP states that "The Selected Respondent [Zamperla] may propose to include subtenants for portions of their proposed operations, but such subtenants, and such subtenant agreements, shall be subject to NYCEDC approval."
In other words, the Bloomberg administration has the authority to step in and stop the genericafication of Coney Island. We're not holding our breath on that, but we are waiting for someone at NYCEDC to get back to us. A petition addressed to Mayor Bloomberg and Zamperla president Valerio Ferrari begins, "It has been brought to my attention that a historic piece of Coney Island is being kicked out. How does a business that has been there since 1934 get kicked out?"
John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia, who owns Cha Cha's and the Beer Island, calls the eviction a "criminal act" and "a conspiracy." He's joined forces with the operators of Ruby's, shoot the Freak, the Grill House, and Gregory & Paul to fight Zamperla. "They told me they were going to give me [a renewal for] three [years], three, and three — nine years,' he tells Grub Street. "It sounded like a sure thing. They probably told us that because if they told us they were going to throw us out, we wouldn’t pay the rent. Which I’m sorry I paid the rent." He currently pays $100,000 a month, up from the $15,000 he paid when he opened nine years ago.
"My heart is broken," one Cha Cha's waitress says. "I want to break down and cry. They’re going to try to turn it into A.C., but what they don’t understand is it’s an urban community and the urban is not going to move out of that community. Bloomberg does not go to bat for the people that live here and it’s all about the tourists and what they can bring in."